Door to Hell

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Door to Hell
Darvasa gas crater panorama.jpg
Panorama of the gas site burning, 2011
Door to Hell is located in Turkmenistan
Door to Hell
Location of the Door to Hell fire in Turkmenistan
Country Turkmenistan
Region Derweze, Ahal Province
Coordinates 40°15′9.4″N 58°26′21.8″E / 40.252611°N 58.439389°E / 40.252611; 58.439389Coordinates: 40°15′9.4″N 58°26′21.8″E / 40.252611°N 58.439389°E / 40.252611; 58.439389
Field history
Discovery 1971

The Door to Hell is a natural gas field in Derweze (also spelled Darvaze, meaning "gate"), Ahal Province, Turkmenistan. The Door to Hell is noted for its natural gas fire which has been burning continuously since it was lit by Soviet petrochemical engineers in 1971.[1] The fire is fed by the rich natural gas deposits in the area. The pungent smell of burning sulfur pervades the area for some distance.

Geography[edit]

The field is situated near the Derweze village. It is in the middle of the Karakum Desert, about 260 kilometres (160 mi) north of Ashgabat. The gas reserve found here is one of the largest in the world. The name "Door to Hell" was given to the field by the locals, referring to the fire, boiling mud, and orange flames in the large crater, which has a diameter of 70 metres (230 ft).[2] The hot spots range over an area with a width of 60 metres (200 ft) and to a depth of about 20 metres (66 ft).[3]

History[edit]

The site was identified by Soviet engineers in 1971.[4] It was thought to be a substantial oil field site.[5] The engineers set up a drilling rig and camp nearby, and started drilling operations to assess the quantity of gas reserve available at the site. As the Soviets were pleased with the success of finding the gas resources, they started storing the gas. The ground beneath the drilling rig and camp collapsed into a wide crater and disappeared. No lives were lost in the incident. Large quantities of methane gas were released, however, creating an environmental problem and posing a potential danger to the people of the nearby villages.[citation needed]

Fearing the further release of poisonous gases from the cavern, the engineers decided to burn it off.[2] They thought that it would be safer to burn it than to extract it from underground through expensive methods. At that time, expectations were that the gas would burn out within a few weeks, but has continued to burn more than four decades after it was set on fire.[2]

The crater was featured in a Die Trying episode titled Crater of Fire. Explorer George Kourounis became the first person to ever set foot at the bottom, gathering samples of extremophile microorganisms. It aired on July 16, 2014 on the National Geographic Channel.[6]

Effects on future development of gas[edit]

The deposit as seen at night, 2010

In April 2010, the president of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, visited the site and ordered that the hole should be closed, or measures be taken to limit its influence on the development of other natural gas fields in the area.[4] Turkmenistan plans to increase its production of natural gas, intending to increase its export of gas to Pakistan, China, India, Iran, Russia, and Western Europe from its present level to 75 million cubic metres (2.6×10^9 cu ft) in the next 20 years.[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Turkmenistan hopes 'Door to Hell' will boost tourism". CTV News. 22 June 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "What a ‘hell hole’!". Pakistan Daily Times. September 14, 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Marat Gurt (20 April 2010). "Turkmen president wants to close "Hell's Gate"". Reuters. Retrieved 16 December 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "The Door to Hell: Take a look inside a giant hole in the desert which has been on fire for more than 40 YEARS". Daily Mail. 27 July 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2012. 
  5. ^ American Geological Institute (January 2010). Earth. American Geological Institute. p. 22. Retrieved 10 October 2012. 
  6. ^ Christina Nunez (16 July 2014). "Q&A: The First-Ever Expedition to Turkmenistan's "Door to Hell"". National Geographic.